talking about the future


1. When we know about the future we normally use the present tense.

  • We use the present simple for something scheduled or arranged:

We have a lesson next Monday.
The train arrives at 6.30 in the morning.
The holidays start next week.
It is my birthday tomorrow.

  • We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements:

I’m playing football tomorrow.
They are coming to see us tomorrow.
We’re having a party at Christmas.

2. We use will to talk about the future:

  • When we make predictions:

It will be a nice day tomorrow.
I think Brazil will win the World Cup.
I’m sure you will enjoy the film.

  • To mean want to or be willing to:

I hope you will come to my party.
George says he will help us.

  • To make offers and promises:

I'll see you tomorrow.
We'll send you an email.

  • To talk about offers and promises:

Tim will be at the meeting.
Mary will help with the cooking.

3. We use (be) going to:

  • To talk about plans and intentions:

I’m going to drive to work today.
They are going to move to Manchester.

  • When we can see that something is likely to happen:

Be careful! You are going to fall.
Look at those black clouds. I think it’s going to rain.

4. We often use verbs like would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect to talk about the future:

What are you going to do next year? I’d like to go to University.
We plan to go to France for our holidays.
George wants to buy a new car.

5. We use modals may, might, and could when we are not sure about the future:

I might stay at home tonight, or I might go to the cinema.
We could see Mary at the meeting. She sometimes goes.

6. We can use should if we think something is likely to happen:

We should be home in time for tea.
The game should be over by eight o’clock.

7. Clauses with time words:

In clauses with time words like when, after, and until we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

I’ll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

8. Clauses with if:

In clauses with if we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

We won’t be able to go out if it rains.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.

WARNING: We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

I’ll come home when I will finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain rains.

But we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

9. We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous or going to for emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions:

They’ll be coming to see us next week.
I will be driving to work tomorrow.





Just confirm me what i understood

would - should use only in past tense(is there any exception for it - using that in future sentence when we are not sure about that matter)


I know about the rules: The rules for will : definite plans and predictions
The rules for going to : to talk about sth we know/think about the future
but I still cannot do these two exercises. I mixed them all up. Could you also please write the rules next to them? Thank you so much in advance.

Complete the conversation. Use the verbs in the box with WILL or GOING TO.
1. A: It’s getting really cold. B: Yes, I’m sure it ______________________ (snow).
2. A: Do you have my mobile number? B: I’m not sure. I _______________________ (check).
3. A: Look at that beautiful blue sky! B: Yes. It ______________________ (be) a lovely day.
4. A: Have you found a new flat yet? B: No, but we ___________________(look) at a few more next week
5. A: I’m terribly thirsty. I’d love a glass of water. B: I _____________________ (get) you one from the kitchen.
6. A: Excuse me. Is this jacket in the sale? B: I’m not sure. I ____________________(ask) the manager.

Complete the conversation. Use the verbs in the box with WILL or GOING TO.
answer look open phone rain show spend wait

Carl: Have you got any plans for the weekend?
Zack: Not really. I ________________ until my sister arrives. I’m not sure what she wants to do.
Carl: She ________________ the weekend here, isn’t she?
Zack: Yes. She _________________ me all her holiday photos.
Carl: Well, if the weather’s good tomorrow, you can go for a nice walk.
Zack: Yes, but look at those dark clouds. It ________________ tonight.
Carl: Maybe. I _________________ on the Internet and see what thay say about tomorrow’s weather. Oh, what’s that noise?
Zack: I think there’s someone at the door.
Carl: I _________________ it. … It’s a letter for you. What is it?
Zack: I _________________ it now. Oh, it’s our concert tickets. Marek’s ticket is here as well. I ________________ him now and tell him.

Hello sallyjoe21,

What you don't you write what you think the answers and reasons are for each one? You will learn much more that way. We can then explain a couple of them that you seem to have trouble with.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


I was reading an article on the Economist and bumped into this sad news item:

María José Alvarado, who was to represent Honduras in the Miss World beauty pageant in London in December, was murdered along with her sister.

My question is about the "be (was)+ to-infinitive". I thought that this construction should be used when the arranged event eventually took place while if the event did not actually happened the correct tense/construction should be "was+to+perfect infinitive" hence
"M.J.A, who was to have represented Honduras..."

I'm a little bit puzzled. Can you please shed some light?


Hello Knightrider,

In this context, there is no clear difference between the two forms, though the second example, as a perfect form, suggests that the action was to be done by a certain time. The construction expresses expectation (similar to 'supposed to') and the past form 'was' tells us that the expectation was in the past in both cases. Although the construction is generally used to express an action which did not take place ('I was to... but did not'), strictly speaking in neither case do we know whether or not the action took place. It is quite acceptable to say:

I was supposed to finish the work... and I did!

I was supposed to have finished the work... and I have!

I hope that clarifies it for you. You may want to visit our sister-site, TeachingEnglish, which is aimed at teachers of English and may be helpful to you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter.

I seem to understand that the distinction is not as clear-cut as I thought it was. Your reply has been extremely helpful. Thanks also for the link.

All the best.


Hi!I want to know that why the present tense is used in the following question.
"When does the next boat leave?"

Sorry for disturbing you.

hello Senju,

Don't worry about disturbing us - we're happy to help! Your sentence is an example of the present simple used with future meaning to describe scheduled or timetabled events. We use this form when we are talking about train timetables, for example, or regular meeting times.

You can find more information and examples, plus an exercise to practise this and other future forms, on our page on talking about the future.

Best wishes



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the knowledge.Now i get it.

Request your help to clarify concepts about future time expressions. Are the following sentences grammatical ? Do the sentences mean different things? The sentences are:

Set A
He will marry next April.
He is marrying next April.
He is going to marry next April.

Set B
The man will purchase a new house in Delhi.
The man is going to purchase a new house in Delhi.
The man shall be purchasing a new house in Delhi.

Set C
We are going to see the exhibition.
We will go to see the exhibition

On the face of it all sentences appear to be correct. Are they ? So when does one really use other tenses to express future time if the modals can always be used ?

Look forward to your clarification.

Thanks ,